Today’s question is from Angela asks:
A couple booked me for their wedding. We hit it off straight away and the couple really like my photo journalistic approach. I am also super excited as their wedding is at a venue I’ve never photographed before.
The problem is I received an email from the bride, after completing my standard forms. I have a section in one of my forms that asks are there any special request.
What I receive was a huge list of photos to take throughout the day. I’m worried that I won’t be able to get all the photos or potentially may need a second shooter as the majority of photos looked to be setup and it’s not the way I photograph.
I don’t want to disappoint them, how do I let them know I can’t take all the photos they’re asking for?
Topics Discussed in this Episode:
- Set the expectations of the bride and groom straight away
- Offer suggestions and potential compromises
- Give them a time frame how long a photo will take
- If you need help, get an assistant
- Have a clause in your contract to protect you about missed photos
G’day, Angela. Thanks for your question.
I have a rule of thumb that I need to contact or get back to a client within 24 to 48 hours at the very most, and I do this just so it to separate myself from other photographers, because from what I’ve heard from clients, is that photographers tend to be a little bit slack in getting back to people, and sometimes it’s like a week or so.
And the reason I’m telling you to get back to them super fast is, the longer you think about this, Angela, the more it’s going to fester and it’s going to drive you nuts, isn’t it?
It’s like you’re going to put different scenarios in your head. Am I going to lose the job? Are they going to be cross with me? Are they going to snub me on the wedding day? Are they just going to go and hire someone else?
The fact that they’ve gone through the process of meeting with you, and they mentioned that they like your photo journalistic approach, which you need to explain and set the expectations for the bride and groom straightaway and let them know this is how you photograph. And explain to them how those photos are taken.
Yes, I know that some photos, when we take at a wedding, they are kind of set up halfway or maybe a little bit more and we try to put our brides and grooms in the best light, but at the same time we’re maybe making comments or joking around with them, and that’s how we get them to laugh.
And there are other moments where we just, things just happen, just kinda like, I guess like a birth, right? There’s a buildup to a birth, and then it reaches its climax and then the big occasion happens. Well the same thing happens with photography, doesn’t it? There’s little moments that happen.
Sometimes they go as quickly as they come. The little moments that may be with the father of the bride or the mother of the bride or something with the bridesmaids, and then there’s other times where they’re really exciting and things just happen and you couldn’t have planned it better yourself.
Now by people giving shot lists, and I know that sometimes it can be annoying, especially when they take a shot list from a wedding website that says, “The 50 must have photos from your wedding,” and it kind of builds this type of if you haven’t got it your wedding is not complete type thing. We’re always trying to compare ourselves.
What you need to do, Angela, is contact the bride, or the groom, but it’s best if you actually speak to both of them at the same time. If you can’t, just with the person that you’re actually most comfortable with.
In this case, looks to be the bride. Just have a candid conversation on the phone. Give her a call, and just explain how those photos are made.
Set the expectations of the bride and groom straight away
You don’t have to go in complete detail, but you can, and sometimes it does actually happen, but I think just giving them a rough idea of how things are happening. If they ask questions, that’s when you can elaborate. ‘Cause sometimes if you give too much information of how you operate that can cause a little bit of confusion.
But explaining to the bride, in this case, that if you were to follow the shot list, that you may not be able to get all these photos. And because you’re constantly looking at the shots, the shot list and trying to replicate what she wants. And I think that they will understand.
And setting expectations early on and explaining to them, “Well, I can get these photos for you, and I probably will be getting the majority of these photos, but just be aware that I may not get all of them.
And sometimes you just have to let things happen.” You also need to explain to them that if you were to, for instance, let’s say we’re in the getting ready stage, Angela, and the bride had listed 20, 30 photos that she wanted.
With the bridesmaids, and the mother of- her mother, and then her father, and then siblings. If you’re there bugging people saying, “Are you ready? Have you got your clothes on? Come on, come on, let’s take some photos,” you’re not really making it a very happy day for them, and that’s the type of thing you need to explain to them.
There is a time and place for that. The big group photos after the ceremony. That’s definitely a place where you can take charge and command people where to go. But I think you just need to be upfront and honest and explain that your photo journalistic approach to get those photos, you will majority get all those photos anyway, you can’t be certain that you will get all of them, based on the way that you photograph, and that’s what they would have originally fell in love with when they hired you.
Offer suggestions and potential compromises
Now, you should offer suggestions and potential compromises, because sometimes there are photos that, well, they really want for whatever reason. And some of those reasons could be because the shoes were passed down from someone, or the dress was the mother’s and they’ve altered it slightly and now she’s wearing it to her wedding.
And I know that sometimes there are places where there’s nowhere to hang the dress, or there’s nowhere for you to photograph it in a way that just doesn’t look nice. And you just have to, I think you just have to grin and bear it and just photograph it.
There has been times where I’ve photographed dresses because the bride says, “I really want a picture of the dress just by itself.” And where the dresses had to be hung, and that was, it wasn’t anywhere flattering, it was in a little hallway that had literally no light.
And what I did was hang the dress, or hung the dress, and had the bride fuss over some jewellery that she was playing with. And that’s how I photographed the dress, but also at the same time, and this is by chance, the father of the bride came up and handed her an envelope.
They hugged, they kissed, and she didn’t shed a tear, but there was just a little bit of emotion that you could see that whatever was inside that envelope had brought her to be quite happy on her wedding day. All while this is happening was the dress in the background.
Give them a time frame how long a photo will take
So you can imagine, where we see things on Pinterest, and places like that, and Instagram, where the dress is hanging, and because it’s a very stylized way, people think, “Oh, that’s how I want for my wedding, ’cause it looks gorgeous.” And it does.
But sometimes when they get ready in hotels that are just, they mostly just be cupboards really. They’re so dark, dingy, and there’s just clutter everywhere, because you’ve got three or four people living in this one bedroom suite. So that’s what you need to do. Offer suggestions, and potential compromises, and that will help the situation.
If she persists with wanting to have, yes, there’s these must have photos, well then that’s fine. Maybe say to her, “I just need to get a handful of photos in each section that I’d like you to suggest for me to take.”
And these are things you may already potentially be taking, right? So that’s just something to consider. You also have to be specific on how long it takes you to take a photo. Because a lot of people think that taking a photo, especially a set up photo, is just you just turn up and press a shutter.
And we as photographers need to explain this, because other stuff’s going on. Especially if you’re taking photos of the bride and groom.
There’s walking to the location, sometimes there are dresses that are a little bit difficult to walk in, high heels over grass, they may have had a little bit of champagne before, and by this time of the day they’re a little bit slow and sluggish, and they’re enjoying themselves, they’re giggling amongst themselves, but they’re photos that, of course, you’d already be taking anyway.
That’s, I think they don’t think of these photos and they just think of the staged photos as the right thing to do.
If you need help, get an assistant
Now if you think that you need some sort of assistance from someone, maybe assistance from a friend or family member or even another photographer that you work with, do it.
Even if it’s just for a couple of hours, it’ll take a load off you. And especially those photos that we take after the ceremony, where we take the family photos, sometimes the bride and groom have these ideas of, “Well, I’m going to take 80 combinations,” and that’s all well and good, but you need to explain to them how long it’s going to take to do those photos, and also, you’ll need assistance.
There’ve been times where I have been assured there was going to be assistance from the bridesmaids and sisters and brothers that are there and they’re not necessarily part of the bridal group, but what’s happened in more times than not, is they’ve only cared about their side of the family and they’re not worried about the others.
And you can hear little comments from other members, other guests there. It’s like, well, me as a photographer, I have to make this run smoothly. Even though I was promised, it just didn’t happen that way on the day.
To be fair to the bride and groom, a lot’s going on. They can’t be on top of everything. Whatever happens, happens. And that’s why if you do have some sort of assistance from someone, especially if they’re giving you a shot list of 50 to 80 people that you need to photograph, because there’s all these different combinations here, absolutely you need to set the expectations.
Let them know how long it’s going to take, and what was going to happen if instead of doing these combinations could you do bigger groups and minimising that risk of missing photos. And that’s really what it’s all about. You don’t want people coming later on and telling you, “Oh, you missed a photo of Uncle George.” It’s like, “Well, I really didn’t know who the hell Uncle George was.”
Have a clause in your contract to protect you about missed photos
And just lastly, Angela, I think it’s good business practise for us to have clauses within our contract that protects us about missed photos. Not just because we’ve missed them, but also camera malfunction, and also missed photos due to rules of the house.
There’ve been situations where I’ve been told that I can’t get close to the altar. And that’s fine, I’ve got long lenses in my bag. And that’s cool. I was- The majority of the time, I was behind the last guest, and that’s how I do tend to photograph it anyway, so it wasn’t a big issue. If the church was a lot bigger, there may have been a bigger issue, because I only had a certain length lens.
But there’ve been other times where it’s been super dark and you’ve pleaded with the staff to raise the house lights, and they’ve said, “Oh, we can’t because as soon as we raise them, they’re going to go full bore and then we have to step down to get to the level that you want,” and they just don’t want to do that.
You need to let the bride and groom know that it’s quite dark and that you’ve gone and approached them because it’s effecting your photography. And if you mention this throughout the day, they will go, “Oh, yeah, that’s right, yes yes.” And if they do see your photos later and they really like them and go, “Oh, wow, that’s amazing. Considering the conditions, you performed exceptionally well.”
The clause about having this information in your contract is not to wave it into your client’s face and go, “This is it, take it or leave it.” It’s more as a safeguard.
I’ve had this clause from the day one, and I’ve never ever ever had to use it. I’ve always tried my hardest to get the photos, and I’m sure that’s exactly what you’ll do. It just gives me that peace of mind that if anything happens, I can say that they did sign a contract that said that I wasn’t liable, and you’re not going to have any issues there.
So there you go, Angela. Hope this helps you. Just remember, get back to them as soon as possible, and just be honest and open with them.
I don’t think you’re going to lose the wedding, and I’m sure you’re going to do an exceptional job. And I think you’re probably just overreacting to it, and I think that the bride is probably going to be quite lenient and work with you for sure. ‘Cause she would want, and he, and the groom would also want their wedding to go off without a hitch. There you go, Angela. Hope that helps.